My four year-old son hits others. When I tell him to stop he yells at me saying that he doesn’t have to do what I tell him to do. Sometimes, he will run away from me into his uncle’s room. How can I help him change his behavior?
There's reason behind every behavior. At four years-old, your son is still testing boundaries and exploring his surroundings. When he hits it's important that you act on the unwanted behavior immediately after it happens. For example, take his hand and say "no, we don't hit" and then explain that hitting is wrong because it hurts others. It may take several repetitions before he actually understands what you are trying to teach him. His ability to comprehend and make sense of things is much different compared to that of a teenager or an adult.
Effectively utilizing consequences can be a helpful way to change unwanted behavior. Consequences can be positive and negative. A positive consequence, like more playtime or a treat, increases the chances of a behavior happening. A negative consequence, like a time out, decreases the chances of a behavior happening again.
When administering consequences it's important to keep four things in mind:
- Keep it important to the child (a special toy or book)
- Make it immediate (directly following the unwanted/wanted behavior)
- Keep it appropriate (not too big and not too small)
- Make it relate to your child's behavior (if he hits with a toy, take the toy away)
It sounds like just telling him isn't working, so now is the time to try something new. If he is not supposed to talk back and if he's not supposed to go into his uncle's room then those are both unwanted behaviors and appropriate consequences need to be applied. Be consistent. If you stick with your new routine, his behavior should change.
My 2-year-old daughter makes bedtime very difficult. She is stubborn, throws fits and will not calm down, no matter what we try. We have introduced a good-behavior calendar. If she goes to sleep without acting up, she gets a new book to read with us at bedtime. We try to make this as much fun as possible by reading books and telling stories. It never fails that once the fun time is over, she doesn’t want to go to sleep and gets upset. Our 4-year-old son never had a problem at bedtime; I just don’t know what to do.
It sounds like your toddler is really testing your limits at bedtime. Even though you didn’t go through this with your son, this bedtime dilemma is very common. Rest assured that bedtime is a learned routine, and it will get better.
You’re doing a lot of positive things already. By incorporating the calendar, you’re reinforcing the good behavior that you want to see more of (going to bed tantrum-free). The expectation of being good for an entire week might just be too long of a time frame for her. See if she responds to a more immediate reward.
Children respond well to structure and predictability, so try to follow the same bedtime routine each and every night. Start with a soothing bath, put on pajamas, read a story, then tuck her in and give lots of goodnight hugs and kisses. During the routine, tell your daughter what’s next, so she’s not surprised. For example during her bath, you might say: “In five minutes, bath time will be over, and then we’ll get our jammies on.” This lets her know each step before it happens. Also make sure that bedtime is the same every single night. This will condition your daughter to be sleepy the same time of day every day.
You may also want to consider eliminating your daughter’s daytime nap (if she’s taking one). A daytime nap may be affecting her ability to sleep at night because she’s not tired. Every child is different, but typically children outgrow naps around 3 years of age. If you’re unsure about whether or not your child still needs a nap, you can contact her pediatrician.